Fashion is big. In this country it is a huge part of our economy and last year contributed £32 billion to UK GDP, a figure that is set to rise this year.
Fashion is a major employer here, employing 890,000 people, meaning it is almost as big as the financial sector. British fashion also has a reputation for being brilliantly original as well as having a strong history of tradition, with iconoclastic designers such as Vivienne Westwood and longstanding fashion houses such as Burberry.
We have a lot to be proud of. But before we get too full of ourselves, which isn’t really a British character trait, let’s remember fashion is a huge polluter, being the second most polluting industry on the planet.
Any creative magazine could fill its pages with the huge amount of gorgeous and hideous, colourful, and monochrome, patterned and plain, flimsy and structured, cool and hot fashion items on our catwalks, in our stores and all over the internet. In short, when it comes to fashion trends, UK is the style leader.
And one of our iconic designers who really epitomises what it is to be British is Mary Quant, who is being celebrated at an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum until 16 February 2020.
Dame Barbara Mary Quant became THE fashion icon of the 1960s.
There were many signatures to her style, including miniskirts, hot pants, bright colours, synthetic fabrics and simple silhouettes. Her motto is: “The fashionable woman wears clothes. The clothes don’t wear her.”
When I went to the V&A show I realised how many of my own clothes are Quant-esque, including a green top (pictured), which has a zip detail which many of Quant’s clothes have too.
The problem with being original in fashion is that other people are going to copy you, and much of today’s sports fashions in particular have obviously been influenced by the designs of Mary Quant that go back to the 1960s.
A lot of ads these days, as they probably always have, plagiarise, sorry, are ‘influenced and inspired by’ creative geniuses from other fields, from fashion though to film.
If ad creatives were so brilliant that they could always be completely original, then would they still be working in advertising? Or would they be creating the works of art that other marketing people would copy?
Copying the work of creative geniuses and bringing it to the masses is part of what great creatives do. That is not to say that advertising creatives aren’t brilliantly talented, because they are. And part of that talent is recognising the genius of others and using it. Geniuses such as Mary Quant.
Mary Quant is now 85 years old, which is no age these days. As for her fashions, they seem to be completely ageless.